Culture: expectations vs reality

It seems that ‘culture’ has become quite the buzz word, and it can easily be misinterpreted based on what the media and Silicon Valley has to say about it. 

However, in the context of how we explain culture, it is the absolute crux of business and can be the difference between a thriving and profitable workplace, and a business on the verge of collapse. 

So what exactly is culture made up of? Here are some common misconceptions of what we may think it is, vs what it actually is. 

1. Expectation: Bean bags, free lunches and pool tables. Reality: Flexibility and autonomy

You see the cool, hip new startups and tech firms doing this, so that means you should too, right? 

Bean bags, all-you-can-eat unlimited meals, on site chefs, chill-out zones, meditation centres… the list goes on.

Although these offerings appear impressive and enticing, these tokenistic symbols are representative of something much deeper that actually impacts the culture of a place — a sense of control over how one sets their workflow. 

What people actually need is a sense of autonomy over their work and the flexibility and authority to manage their own wellbeing, workloads and daily rhythms. 

This can be done by allowing staff to set their own hours, work environments and task management approach that builds in elements of flexibility. 

2. Expectation: Lavish dinners and social events. Reality: A sense of belonging and team cohesiveness

Team connection doesn’t need to be expensive or overwhelming. What people actually need is a sense of being a valued part of a team. 

It’s instinctual and built into our ancient survival systems to be a part of a tribe. Creating a culture of psychological safety, belonging, and inclusiveness is what will create a strong sense of community within your business.

You can do this through regular check-ins, allowing open feedback without judgement or criticism and ongoing encouragement.

The dinners, catch ups and fun social events will eventually become a natural byproduct of having a cohesive and connected team. 

3. Expectation: High pay and benefits. Reality: recognition and feeling valued

It’s important to ‘pay people what they’re worth’, and offer benefits as a part of your offerings, however attracting and retaining talented staff actually comes through them feeling a sense of being connected to an organisation and feeling valued.

No matter how much you pay someone, if they aren’t recognised for the great work they’re doing, it can quickly create a disengaged or disgruntled employee. 

Taking the time to thank someone for their work, or recognise a job well done can take less than 30 seconds and cost nothing, yet have a greater impact than a $20,000 pay rise. 

4. Expectation: Work whenever you want. Reality: Trusted to deliver work using personal process

Let’s dive in a little deeper to the ‘flexible work’ piece. 

Although providing flexibility is important, it’s still super critical and actually detrimental to your team to set clear standards, boundaries and milestones. 

Without a clear direction, and communication with your team about what the business is working towards, it can be difficult for staff to set meaningful goals.

Once the direction has been set, empowering your team to take ownership on how they plan to get there and them being trusted to use their own processes to meet the goal is what can create a culture of personal accountability and responsibility.

5. Expectation: Expensive trainings, activities and bonuses. Reality: Acknowledgement of personal goals and individual career succession planning

We all know it’s important to provide education, training and upskilling opportunities to our team.

However, if training doesn’t align with actually sitting down with team members and acknowledging how this connects to their personal goals, values and their own career planning, it may fall on deaf ears. 

Taking a ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me?) approach to training will ensure you’re not only reaching business outcomes, but creating a culture of motivated, high performing team members along the way that strive to produce great results. 

It’s about balancing intrinsic motivations with the extrinsic needs of the business.

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  • Building thriving, high performing teams that fast-track your progress on autopilot
  • Getting super clear on your vision and goals + provide the tools on how to get there
  • Developing tried and tested frameworks to attract high calibre talent and develop your existing team 
  • Become a well-respected, inspirational and motivating leader to your team 
  • Generating outcomes in your business while simultaneously stepping away from working ‘in’ your business to focus on working ‘on’ your business